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Singing their hearts out

Rachel Lindemann, Melody Peterson, Bryce Dutton and Ashley Morben are a part of the All-State Mixed Choir.1 / 3
Kaleigh Herter and McKenzie Mann are part of the 2011 ACDA Junior High Honor Choir2 / 3
Mia Martinez is part of the 2011 ACDA Elementary Honor Choir3 / 3

With several contests and competitions throughout the state and nation, Kathy Larson's choir students have been busy.

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, Detroit Lakes High School (DLHS) hosted the Solo Vocal Ensemble Contest.

With 70 entries, Detroit Lakes had the most entries of anyone in the contest.

Of the 70 DL Solo Ensemble entries, 53 received Superior Ratings -- the highest possible -- and 17 received Excellent Ratings.

And of everyone who competed, many more did not.

"A lot of people auditioned," Larson said.

The performers at Vocal Solo Ensemble performed live in front of judges in duets, trios, mixed groups, and of course, solos.

The following day --Thursday, Feb. 17 -- saw the start of the Minnesota Music Educators Association (MMEA) Mid-Winter Conference at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

This conference encompassed two main events: the All State Choir performance, and the 9th and 10th grade Honor Choir performances.

All State began last March, when contestants auditioned live for the coveted spots.

As with the Solo Ensemble, the audition process for All State is very complex, and designed such that only the greatest talent from across the state are selected.

"They want to include as much of Minnesota as they can," Larson said. "As you can imagine, there is remarkable talent across the state."

The winners are announced in May, and in June, they receive the music they will later perform.

June is also the month of All State Camp, where the contestants meet their guest conductor for the first time.

At All State Camp, they spend an intense week learning their music, before performing it in front of their families, friends and everyone else attending the convention.

On Saturday, Feb. 19, the All State participants reunite for a concert at Orchestra Hall during the MMEA Mid-Winter Clinic in Minneapolis.

Finally, the National Honor Choir is performing March 9-12 at the National ACDA Convention in Chicago.

"It's a very huge honor," Larson explained. "Literally, there are thousands of kids who audition."

Not only do the kids have the opportunity to work with nationally and internationally renowned conductors, but they also get to meet people from every corner of America.

"Oftentimes, they make friends who they keep in touch with throughout their high school years," Larson said.

Paige Raaf, who is performing in the National Women's Honor Choir, is thrilled to be having this experience.

"I'm really excited," Raaf said, although she admitted that the pressure to succeed is often intense.

"We're supposed to be considered some of the best in the nation, so there's a lot expected from you," she added. "You have to have a really good ear and outstanding consistency."

Mia Martinez, who is performing in the National Elementary Honor Choir, is equally thrilled.

"I feel really honored that I was selected to participate in this," Martinez said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Larson added that the music they perform is "extremely challenging," and that the contest attracts kids who "tend to have innate musical abilities, which are further developed through the conductors they meet."

Larson also feels she personally benefits from the National ACDA they're performing at the National Convention.

"It's designed for choral conductors across the U.S.," she said.

"We have the opportunity to hear outstanding choirs from across the nation."